Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In contrast with Yom Hashoah, commemorated on the 27th day of the month of Nisan to recall the horrors targeting Jews specifically, Holocaust Remembrance Day recalls the mosaic of victims whose fate was sealed by Nazism.

Remembrance takes many forms.  As Anna Ornstein, a holocaust survivor born in Hungary in 1927 notes in the poignant film above: “There are many other ways in which the memory of this event will become transformed.  The same way as every other important historical event.  Some will be in archives.  Some will be fictionalized.  Some will be made into films, into plays.  We will die, and our voices will die.  But the art and the books will survive.”

Among the surviving art and books about the Holocaust, few are more widely known than those authored by Primo Levi.  In my personal effort to delve deeper into the lessons of the Holocaust, I’m revisiting his Complete Works edited by Ann Goldstein.


In her introduction to these volumes, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison writes: “The Complete Works of Primo Levi is far more than a welcome opportunity to reevaluate and reexamine historical and contemporary plagues of systematic necrology; it becomes a brilliant deconstruction of malign forces.  The triumph of human identity and worth over the pathology of human destruction glows virtually everywhere in Levi’s writing.  For a number of reasons his works are singular amid the wealth of Holocaust literature.”

Among the many who have been informed by Levi’s works is Allen Hershkowitz, Ph.D., an environmental scientist who wrote a stirring tribute to his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor.   Dr. Hershkowitz will be participating in an ecumenical event this afternoon at 3:00 at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture which will be available through live streaming.

Perhaps the best way to encapsulate the significance of today is contained in the introduction to a research article in Science Advances recently shared with me by a close friend:

“The Holocaust, the Nazi-German annihilation of European Jewry during World War II (1939–1945), is unarguably one of the most destructive and murderous events in the history of human civilization. However, over the last 70 years, genocides and mass killing events have continued to occur and they are not diminishing in frequency. Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Burundi, Syria, and Myanmar have all experienced large-scale murder operations in the last 25 years, some of which may have been preventable. Developing a deeper understanding of genocides and mass killing events, including their causes, common characteristics, predictability, and mitigation, is thus considered by some as ‘the most important goal of social science’. In this respect, lessons learned from the Holocaust continue to play a vital role, and the topic remains as timely as ever.”

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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2 Responses to Holocaust Remembrance Day

  1. doctuhdon says:

    another great post, Len. Jonathan Tobin has written an exceptional piece on “How Not to Remember the Holocaust”, This is the link: https://unitedwithisrael.org/opinion-how-not-to-remember-the-holocaust/
    These are some valuable quotes from his article: “An ocean of tears cried on Jan. 27 or any other day about what happened from 1933 to 1945 will not save a single soul from a similar fate if all we’re willing to do is to talk about it. If we are to give any real meaning to our attempts to embed these events in the consciousness of the world, then it must be accompanied by meaningful action.”
    “the most insidious aspect of much of the contemporary talk about the Holocaust is the effort to discuss it outside of the context of the ongoing campaign to continue a murderous assault on the Jewish people. Dead Jews, especially those long dead in a tragic atrocity that is not seen as directly connected to the current one in the Middle East, are quite popular. It is those who are still living—and who wish to defend their lives and their nation—that are not so well-loved.

    We live in a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism is sweeping across the world. Much of that hate for Jews is disguised as “criticism” of the State of Israel or anti-Zionism. Though advocates for the BDS movement that seeks to eliminate the Jewish state claim innocence of any anti-Semitic belief or intent, that’s a cynical lie. Their ideological war that seeks to deny rights to Jews that they would not deny to any other people is by definition an act of bias against Jews, and therefore, anti-Semitic.

    The process by which expressions of anti-Semitism in the guise of commenting about Israel have been legitimized is deeply discouraging. When the use of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes—such as “dual loyalty” and Jews “hypnotizing the world,” and backing BDS even by members of Congress—occurs without them suffering any sort of penalty is something that must change.”

  2. Thanks, Dan. I agree with Jonathan Tobin that Holocaust remembrance shouldn’t be hijacked to suit a political agenda. Indeed, it should provide the resolve to resist twisted political agendae as advanced by Primo Levi:
    “Since it is difficult to distinguish true prophets from false, it is well to regard all prophets with suspicion. Yet it is clear that this formula is too simple to suffice in every case. A new fascism, with its trail of intolerance, abuse, and servitude, can be born outside our country and imported into it, walking on tiptoe and calling itself by other names; or it can loose itself from within with such violence that it routs all defenses. At that point, wise counsel no longer serves, and, and one must find the strength to resist. But then, too, the memory of what happened in the heart of Europe, not very long ago, can serve as support and warning.”
    Source: https://newrepublic.com/article/119959/interview-primo-levi-survival-auschwitz

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